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    Posted on Nov 20, 2014

    Mike Nichols' 11 Most Iconic Contributions To Movies

    The filmmaker, who died Wednesday at the age of 83, was behind some of cinema's most famous moments and images.

    1. Mrs. Robinson seduces Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate (1967)

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    MGM

    Mike Nichols got his start as a director in 1966 with the fabulously venomous Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and as the years went on, he made an impressive array of films, ending his career more than 40 years later with the 2007 political biopic Charlie Wilson's War.

    But nothing he's done has lodged itself in the pop cultural consciousness like 1967's The Graduate, especially the scene in which disaffected recent college grad Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is seduced by the slinky Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). As Robinson, the unhappy wife of Benjamin's father's law partner, Bancroft flaunts some of the most famous gams in movie history, arching one in front of the camera as Benjamin stammers, "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me... Aren't you?"

    2. Benjamin Braddock crashes the wedding in The Graduate (1967)

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    MGM

    DECADES-OLD SPOILER WARNING! The seduction sequence may be the best-known part of The Graduate, but it's not the film's only famous scene. There's also the ending, in which Benjamin crashes the wedding of his ex-girlfriend Elaine (Katharine Ross), Mrs. Robinson's daughter, in hopes of stopping her from marrying someone else. The pounding on the glass and the scene in the bus afterward will look familiar even if you haven't seen the whole movie — and if you haven't, now's a very good time to check it out.

    3. Introducing Tess McGill and her commute in Working Girl (1988)

    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
    Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    This very '80s movie stars Melanie Griffith as Staten Island secretary Tess McGill, who works on Wall Street. The opening scenes bring you right in to Tess' world by showing her morning commute as Carly Simon sings "Let the River Run" and the camera closes in on the crowded Staten Island Ferry. Sure, there are the accents and there's the huge hair, but the most poignant detail has to be the practical sneakers Tess swaps out for pumps once she gets to the office — that would be a lot of ground to cover in a pair of heels.

    4. George "kills" Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

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    Warner Home Video

    Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is basically a collection of standout scenes in which real-life fiery couple (at the time) Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton play Martha and George, for whom marriage is an eternal purgatory of inflicting punishment on one another. But the scene in which George takes what appears to be a gun out of the closet and points it at his wife's head as she humiliates him in front of their guests perfectly sums up their pact of mutual destruction. It isn't real, but in that moment, it might as well be.

    5. Alice Ayres doles out hard truths in a pink wig in Closer (2004)

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    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Nichols gave Natalie Portman one of her signature roles in Closer as Alice, an American stripper and unlikely innocent in London caught up in a love quadrangle. She dons a pink wig for the charged scene in which a heartbroken Larry Gray (Clive Owen) encounters her at work and demands she talk to him and tell him "something true." Her response — "Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off... but it's better if you do" — could be the thesis of the movie (though the fun never seems to arrive).

    6. The shower in Silkwood (1983)

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    MGM Home Entertainment

    References to the decontamination shower scenes in this whistleblower drama starring Meryl Streep became shorthand for needing to scrub yourself clean after seeing or doing something dirty — who doesn't need a Silkwood shower ever once in a while?

    7. The best tagline ever in The Day of the Dolphin (1973)

    Tom Jung/Avco Embassy Pictures

    Nichols' thriller about a scientist (George C. Scott) whose dolphins are kidnapped as part of a nefarious assassination plot isn't exactly a classic, but the premise has camp potential that's been recognized by no less than Stephen Colbert. Besides, it's really the tagline that can't be beat: "Unwittingly, he trained a dolphin to kill the President of the United States."

    8. Doris Mann sings "I'm Still Here" in Postcards from the Edge (1990)

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    Mill Creek Entertainment

    Of the several musical numbers in Postcards from the Edge, based on Carrie Fisher's semi-autobiographical novel, the best has to be the one in which one-time musical star Doris Mann (Shirley MacLaine) sings "I'm Still Here." It comes on the tail of her daughter Suzanne Vale's (Meryl Streep) own performance. At first, it looks like it could be more competition on her part — except that the song's warm and funny and includes a moment of genuine understanding for the two characters, as well as one of appreciation. Doris doesn't steal the spotlight — she blossoms in it.

    9. The hospital scene in Catch-22 (1970)

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    Paramount Home Video

    Nichols' adaptation of Joseph Heller's anti-war novel has grown into a cult favorite — and scenes like this bit of horrific physical comedy are part of the reason why.

    10. An eclectic celebration of dance in The Birdcage (1996)

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    MGM Home Entertainment

    "You do Fosse, Fosse, Fosse! You do Martha Graham, Martha Graham, Martha Graham! Or Twyla, Twyla, Twyla! Or Michael Kidd, Michael Kidd, Michael Kidd, Michael Kidd! Or Madonna, Madonna, Madonna!... but you keep it all inside." It's one of the late Robin Williams' more wonderful scenes in this 1996 farce about a gay couple trying to pass themselves off as straight men in order to placate their son's future in-laws.

    11. Gust Avrakotos asks how he did in Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

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    Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Nichols' final film was 2007's Charlie Wilson's War, written by Aaron Sorkin. It brought Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts together in a drama based on real-life congressman Wilson's dealings in Afghanistan. But it's Philip Seymour Hoffman as CIA agent Gust Avrakotos who steals the show — not with the ferocious rant he gives in this video, but with the way he ends it by asking a secretary on the way out, "How'd I do?"

    TV and Movies

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